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Detroit Lions grades, report card: Defense blows one of Jared Goff’s better outings vs. Dolphins

Handing out positional grades for the Detroit Lions’ loss to the Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are 1-6 after yet another frustrating game. Against the Miami Dolphins, the Lions jumped to a quick 14-0 lead and looked like they had found the offensive mojo they had lacked in the previous two games. However, defensive failures and a sloppy second half doomed them to another loss.

Let’s hand out some positional grades from the Lions’ Week 8 performance.

Quarterback: A-

In the first half, Jared Goff was absolutely on fire. Not only was his stat line nearly perfect (18-of-25 for 264 yards, 1 TD), but he had pinpoint accuracy on a lot of throws where his receiver did not get a ton of separation. He also started pushing the ball down the field in ways he hadn’t all season, completing three passes of 19+ air yards against the Dolphins.

So what happened in the second half? Well, several things were largely out of his control. For one, he only had three drives the entire half thanks to a defense that couldn’t get a stop. On the first drive, his offensive line was hit with three consecutive penalties that put him into a first-and-30 hole. On the last, potential go-ahead drive, Amon-Ra St. Brown dropped a key pass that caused a third-and-12 that would eventually lead to a turnover on downs.

The only reason Goff doesn’t get a straight A this week is because he missed badly on the key fourth-and-2 throw, and he took a third-down sack on the previous possession when T.J. Hockenson was wide open at the sticks.

Running backs: B+

D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams were responsible for all three touchdowns on the day, and the two combined for 109 total yards on the day. Williams had a respectable 53 yards on 10 carries and caught all three targets thrown his way.

Swift’s return, however, was a disappointment. He had just 6 yards on five carries, and it seemed like the Lions simply didn’t trust him with the ball. His touchdown catch did come on a nice angle route, but after waiting a month for his return, this wasn’t the weapon we were hoping for.

Tight ends: A-

T.J. Hockenson had another huge play, gaining 58 yards on a nice catch-and-run. He also led the team with 80 total receiving yards. Rookie James Mitchell caught the first pass of his career for a nice 14-yard gain.

Overall, the Lions are starting to get some nice, consistent play out of this unit, which is more than you can say for most.

Wide receivers: C+

Kalif Raymond continues to be an underrated player for this offense, and he once again broke free downfield—this time Goff found him.

Unfortunately, it was a slightly disappointing game for the rest of the crew. Josh Reynolds only had two catches for 14 yards and dropped a touchdown at the end of the first half. St. Brown had seven catches for 69 yards but dropped the aforementioned catch on Detroit’s final offensive drive.

This was not a good Dolphins secondary, and I was hoping for more from this unit.

Offensive line: B-

Pass protection was good for most of the game, with Goff only taking four quarterback hits and a sack on 39 pass dropbacks. And that was against a decent Dolphins pass rush.

But at the most critical times of the game, the offensive line failed. There were far too many penalties with this unit, with four in the second half alone. And protection started to break down as the game went on.

Defensive line: D

The Dolphins didn’t make it easy for the Lions defensive line to continue their upward trend of creating pressure. Tua Tagovailoa took just 2.48 seconds on average to throw the ball, the third-quickest mark of Week 8. Still, when the Lions had opportunities, they did not make Tagovailoa’s life difficult at any point. Again, the only time Detroit managed to get pressure was when they sent extra defenders.

The Lions were better against the run, however, which helped them get into many third downs (that the Dolphins eventually converted).

Linebackers: C-

It was the same story for this linebacking crew that it has been for most of the season. While Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez did a decent job in the run game, they were pretty dreadful in coverage. The middle of the field was open all game, as the linebacking crew was often caught too shallow in their zone coverage.

That said, Rodriguez did put together a nice little resume: 7 tackles, 1 sack, pass defended, and a fumble recovery.

Secondary: F

This pretty much says everything, doesn’t it?

Hey, but Kerby Joseph is doing a good job.

Special teams: B+

A fake punt. Two more made field goals with no misses. Jack Fox with a 58.5 punting average and no big mistakes in the coverage units. Decent day from special teams, though it would be nice to see a little more from the returning units.

Coaching: C-

I don’t really know what to do about the coaching grade this week. In terms of in-game decisions, Dan Campbell missed on a challenge, but it was close enough to make it and it didn’t hurt the team. He had a couple of interesting decisions to make when it came to accepting or declining penalties while on defense, but I didn’t have a problem with any of his choices. And he dialed up a well-timed fake punt that was absolutely necessary to keep pace with the Dolphins.

Do we blame coaching for yet another horrible defensive performance? Maybe, but I don’t think there was a game plan that could have made Detroit’s secondary look competent against Miami’s receivers—and it sounds like the players didn’t even execute the game plan they wanted. And it’s not like Aaron Glenn is sitting on his hands. They’re changing personnel, they’re changing schematic things, they’re trying to put players in the best position to succeed. What exactly do we want him to do? Try to answer that question with something specific. Not just “be better.”

Do we blame coaching for the fourth-and-2 play? It’s easy to complain that the Lions took an unnecessary deep shot, but there was a short-yard route by Amon-Ra St. Brown on the play and the Lions receiver wasn’t open. Additionally, the Lions checked the play at the line because Miami was showing zero blitz before dropping into coverage. Here’s Goff after the game:

They showed me their cover zero stuff. We checked it, they bailed out. And that’s kind of my only option on that play once (Lions WR Amon-Ra) St. Brown was covered.

It’s hard for me to point at something specifically the coaching staff is doing wrong, but you can’t really praise them when the offense is playing inconsistently and the defense is not getting any better.

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